Is the bad news about women really good?

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Hundreds of girls in Nigeria are kidnapped by insurgents. In Eastern Europe, women are raped as a strategy of war. An NFL star slugs his wife in a jarring video. Women worldwide fight for basic rights — to drive, to go to school. Meanwhile, 130 million young women in 28 countries have been sexually mutilated in crude religious rituals, with 6,000 added every day. Taken together, you might easily think that the rights of women are ebbing.

You’d be wrong, according to Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong, who travels the world reporting on women’s issues and sees this pervasive bad news about women in a different light: as good, in that it represents events historically left in the shadows now being dragged out into the light to wither.

“None of this stuff came to light before,” Armstrong said.

Those kidnapped girls? Note that troops including U.S. advisers are looking for them.

“No military has ever gone anywhere to rescue girls, ever in history,” she said. “Obama checked off a box never checked off before. Message: Girls count.”

Armstrong and I had lunch recently to talk about her new book, “Uprising: A New Age is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter.” The book begins in dramatic fashion:

“The earth is shifting. A new age is dawning. From Kabul and Cairo to Cape Town and New York, women are claiming their space at home, at work, and in the public square. They are propelling changes so immense, they’re likely to affect intractable issues such as poverty, interstate conflict, culture, and religion, and the power brokers are finally listening.”

Bold words. But Armstrong backs them up, pointing out that the very elements that would seem to undermine women, such as AIDS or the rise of radical Islam, instead are mobilizing them, with a key assist from pervasive social media.

“Women wearing blue jeans discovered that women in hijabs were not subjugated, voiceless victims,” she writes. “Women wearing hijabs found out that contrary to what the fundamentalists said, women in blue jeans were not whores and infidels.”


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